Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Number Of The Beast (1982) – Iron Maiden

At the height of Iron Maiden’s popularity, this metal anthem was so polemic because, at first blush, it seems like a spiritually depraved tribute to Satan. At least that’s how it appeared to a 12 year-old who was admonished by the religious community that such hellraisers as Styx, Journey and Rush were satanic. Man, do I miss the days of backmasking witch hunts! On that front, “The Number Of The Beast” is everything heavy metal aspires to be, instilling fear into the hearts and minds of parents, teachers and church leaders quick to judge a book by its cover—or in this case, an album by its depiction of the devil as puppet master of man set against a background of a lake of fire consuming forsaken souls. Go figure.

Anyhoo. . . . Out of the void, an ominous voice rumbles in dead-on foreboding Vincent Price resonance, reciting a paraphrase of Revelations 12:12 and 13:18 that warns of the devil’s finite rampage on earth. Undeniable eeriness gives way to Marshall stacks unleashing spirited guitar riffing like the Four Horsemen come to herald the Apocalypse. In a soaring tenor tumid with theatrical vibrato, singer Bruce Dickinson assumes the role of a seer coming to terms with his gift of prophecy on the cusp of Armageddon, trying to discern whether his sinister visions are more than just dreams. The ensuing scream that erupts from the bowels of Dickinson’s soul is just awesome, lasting over ten measures, hurling him from his vespertine visions into a living hell.

Supposedly based in part on bassist Steve Harris’ nightmares after he watched Damien: Omen II, “Number” is really no more demonic than a horror film or T.V. series that pits Mephistopheles’ minions against soldiers of God. Hmmm. Anyone watch Fox’s short-lived Point Pleasant about Satan’s daughter slowly understanding her role as the Antichrist? Had it not been prematurely aborted, it conceivably could have followed this song’s plotline: the mark of the beast has now been embraced by the legion who gather to ritualistically sacrifice in the name of Satan; even those who are antagonistic to the Antichrist will eventually succumb. The distinction between revelation and reality no longer exists.

Okay, so eventually he actually assumes the voice of Beelzebub himself, but, like any form of entertainment that implicates spiritual warfare, “Number” has the effect of underscoring the weighty question of salvation. It also makes for compelling theatre as well—Lucifer running rampant before his 1000-year imprisonment.

And, yes, this was posted to coincide with the numerical convergence of 6/6/06.

  • Listen to "The Number Of The Beast" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • No comments: